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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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1861: June

[ Western Virginia | Battle of Big Bethel | Missouri ]


In June, the Union strengthen its blockade of Southern ports and continued to gather more troops in and around Washington for a planned invasion of Virginia. Meanwhile, the first land battles between the armies took place in the western part of Virginia and in Missouri.

Western Virginia

Viriginia slave population
The western part of Virginia had few slaves (as shown in this map, where higher slave populations are shown with darker shading) and the general sentiment of its citizens was pro-Union. Local troops were raised for the Union army and volunteers from Ohio and Indian were sent there to support the Union sympathizers. These troops were also ordered to protect the B&O Railroad line which provided a crucial link between Washington and the Midwestern states.

Battle of Philippi
Union and Confederate troops met at the town of Philippi (now West Virginia) on June 3rd, in the first land battle of the war. The southern troops were forced to retreat, in what the press called the "Philippi Races." This victory helped the Union establish control in the western part of Virginia, though throughout June, Confederate forces continued to attack the B&O line.

Wheeling Convention
With Federal control established, on June 11th, pro-Union delegates representing most of Virginia's western counties met in Wheeling. The convention nullified the Virginia ordinance of secession and formed a "restored government" of Virginia, which was subsequently recognized by the Federal government.

Battle of Big Bethel

Battle of Great Bethel
On June 10th, the second major land battle took place in Virginia, but this in the eastern part, on the lower peninsula between the York and James Rivers. Union troops attacked a Confederate line which had been established near Big Bethel Church. The northern troops were repelled, and though the Confederates subsequently fell back to a more defensible position, they gained confidence that they could hold off the Union army. Meanwhile, the public and the newspaper in the North were rather put out by this unexpected defeat.


Jefferson City, MO
Missouri, a slave state, was hotly contested early in the war. The Governor, Claiborne Jackson, was pro-Confederate, but he was faced with Union General Nathaniel Lyon, who was determined to maintain control of the state. On June 15th, Lyon captured the capital, Jefferson City, and then pursued Jackson to Booneville, where on the 17th he defeated the southern forces and gained a firmer grasp of the state and control of the Missouri River for the Union.

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